BASEL, Switzerland – An attempt to break an aviation speed record went horribly wrong Monday when a small "experimental" plane crashed through an apartment building in the Swiss city of Basel, killing the pilot and injuring at least three other people, authorities said.
The plane went through the attic of an apartment building in the northwest of the city before coming to a fiery rest on a playground.
The pilot was identified as Hans Georg Schmid, a former Swissair pilot who racked up more than 16,000 hours of flight experience during three decades at the former national carrier. His body was found in the park, said Klaus Mannhart, spokesman for Basel cantonal (state) police.
Schmid was trying to break a world record for a solo single-engine flight over 4,970 miles by reaching the U.S. city of Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 30 hours. The plane was fueled by 450 gallons of kerosine, airport spokeswoman Sabrina Walter said.
"There was a loud bang," said Silvia Kalman, an adult supervisor taking care of 19 children who were at the playground when the plane crashed. A jungle gym burst into flames, she said. Hours later, the playground was still littered with debris and the plane's wreckage.
Schmid designed the plane, called the "Express 2000 ER," and was planning later this year to use it to fly around the world twice later this year, according to Lycoming Engines, the Williamsport, Pennsylvania-based company that built the engine.
The pilot previously has set world records circumnavigating the globe in both eastbound and westbound directions, using an earlier homemade plane he designed. His new attempts would have been northbound and southbound, crossing the North Pole and Antarctica on each trip, Lycoming says on its Web site.
The company said Schmid holds over 160 aviation world records in all. The new plane had a successful maiden flight last month, according to the Experimental Aviation Association of Switzerland.
Vincent Devauchelle, deputy director of the airport, said the machine suffered problems shortly after take off. He said the Swiss Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau was looking into the accident.